Main and Mulberry: Main Feed – Rachel Riley, Visit Valley Forge

Joining the show this week is Rachel Riley from Valley Forge, PA. Learn about the area’s rich history inside the Valley Forge National Historical Park. Get the inside scoop on Montgomery County’s shopping mecca and discover some incredible outdoor adventures on Spring Mountain! After listening to this episode, Valley Forge, PA may just be the next stop on your vacation bucket list!

Transcript:

Anna Bell: Hello and welcome to this episode of Main & Mulberry. I’m your host, Anna Bell, and today I’m so excited to have with us, Rachel Riley. She’s the director of communications for Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board at King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Rachel, thank you so much for making the time to be with us today.

0:00:40.3 Rachel Riley: Thanks so much for having me, Anna.

0:00:42.2 AB: Yeah, absolutely. We’re excited to learn all about the Valley Forge area with you today, but to kinda kick things off for our listeners, maybe you can share with us, really, where you’re located geographically within the state of Pennsylvania.

0:00:57.1 RR: Absolutely. So I know some folks sometimes get confused when they hear Valley Forge and Montgomery County or King of Prussia, because Valley Forge is actually not a town, it’s a park, and we’ll get into that in just a minute, but King of Prussia is an area. And it’s located in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. So we are actually located in South Eastern PA, so we’re about 18 minutes or so from downtown Philadelphia, so a quick trip from the PHL Airport actually, but we also are connected through some major thoroughfares and really easily accessible highways. So you can get to New Jersey from here, you can get to New York, you can get to Western Pennsylvania. So, great road-trip for folks coming out from your way, or an easy and quick flight as well into that PHL Airport location.

0:01:44.3 AB: That’s awesome. Yes, and like you were saying, a lot of us recognize you for Valley Forge, but it’s interesting to know, that’s really King of Prussia’s really where you’re located.

0:01:54.8 RR: That’s right. So Valley Forge National Historical Park is, that’s where that name comes from, and that name is nationally and internationally known, and that’s why people always refer to Valley Forge, that’s where we get our namesake and re-use that moniker because it’s so well-known nationally.

0:02:12.5 AB: It’s well-known, that’s right.

0:02:15.2 RR: But we actually cover all of Montgomery County, which is the third largest county in Pennsylvania. We’re actually bigger than some states. We’ve got lots of residents here and so much to see and do. And the other reason we go with Valley Forge is there’s about 18 Montgomery counties in the country, so to avoid any confusion, there’s only one Valley Forge. And again, it’s known throughout our nation and of course overseas too, so that’s why we use it.

0:02:39.1 AB: That’s true, that’s true. Wow, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re a town that’s very rich in history, right? We were starting to touch on that. I’ve been told that I can’t come without visiting Valley Forge’s National Historical Park, right? That’s a must stop.

0:02:53.0 RR: Absolutely. Probably one of your first stops. Again, it’s right in that major thoroughfare, so it’s easily accessible for you from the highway or from the airport, great first stop for you on your tour of Valley Forge in Montgomery County, PA. For those who aren’t familiar, Valley Forge National Historical Park is the site where General George Washington and the Continental Army encamped during that harsh winter, 1777 to 1778. And it actually is considered the birthplace of the modern American Army, because that’s where they really started drilling with soldiers, going through drills and training them. That was the first time in our history they really did that. And though no battle was fought here in the park, it’s so well-known because again, of those drilling and trainings that happened, but also because it really ended up being a turning point in The Revolutionary War for our country.

0:03:45.2 RR: So huge historic piece of story here, and then it also connects to… We have actually about a dozen historic sites throughout Montgomery County, and we use our Patriot Trails to connect those for folks. So definitely start at the park, but there are some other really cool sites throughout our county. Old historic homes, of course, you can see general George Washington’s headquarters in the park, but lots of other really historic buildings throughout. There’s Pottsgrove Manor, different things throughout the county to really tell that whole story of the history that happens here. There’s other sites that George Washington visited. So really a cool place, and there’s even something fun for the kids that we did. We have a comic book, award-winning comic book, it’s called Patriot Tales. And what we did was we imagined, “What if a couple of kids went back in time and met George Washington?” to help kids get out of the textbook, get out of the routine, learn about history in a different way. So we use that fun comic book feature, we’ve got about four editions so far, and we’re gonna keep going with that.

0:04:48.9 AB: That’s so cool.

0:04:49.9 RR: So even you’ve got the kids, [0:04:51.3] ____ people road trip out here to the park and use that, and we’ve had teachers all across the country actually contact us to use that. It’s a great, great way to learn about the history and it’s super fun, too.

0:05:02.5 AB: Absolutely, so it sounds like we’ve gotta keep our eyes peeled for those historical markers throughout the area. And it looks like right behind you, we might be getting a glimpse of the park as well, is that right?

[laughter]

0:05:15.2 AB: That is so beautiful.

0:05:15.8 RR: Of course, as you know, it’s fall here. Those leaves are pretty much all gone now in November, we’ve had some cold weather and some storms that kind of blew those leaves away, but fall, and any time of year really is gorgeous in the park. Fall is one of my favorites. I love seeing the fall fully edged throughout Montgomery County, especially the park throughout the fall.

0:05:35.0 AB: As we’re getting into December on the Christmas spirit, are you seeing any snow flurries yet? Have you gotten any snow?

0:05:40.6 RR: We are not yet, and actually, the last couple of winters, I feel like have been a little mild, but we’re hoping to see some this year. And usually out this way, December is a little early for snow for us. We can get snow up until March, even April. So we’ll see what happens this year, but the destruction that you’re seeing in the photo here is actually the National Memorial Arch. So that obviously wasn’t there when George Washington and his soldiers were encamped, but it was constructed afterwards as a in memoriam of everything that happened there, and the soldiers that lost their lives, because of course, there were thousands upon thousands of soldiers encamped here. And you can see the huts when you go through, there’s trails for you, it’s pet-friendly, just keep your dog on a leash. So lots for everyone in the family to enjoy it at the park.

0:06:27.1 AB: So many wonderful things to see. And kinda continuing in that spirit, Valley Forge and Montgomery County offers numerous ways to get outside with the family and enjoy some outdoor activities. So Rachel, maybe you can share some of those with us. Some of those outdoor activities that’d be really fun to do.

0:06:46.2 RR: Absolutely. One of our main attractions are our trails. We have almost 100 miles of trails throughout the county. And that’s including some in the park, but it really goes throughout the entire county and beyond. You could bike throughout our entire region using some things, like one of my favorites is the Schuylkill River Trail. You can bike, you can hike, you can jog, you can, again, bring the dog. You can do lots of different things, skateboard. [chuckle] So tons of different things to do on those trails. And what we did, actually, was, of course, we promote those trails, great way to get outside and really see the county, but also, we put together these digital bike routes. So we call it Bike Montco. You can pull it up on our website, ValleyForge.org or on our… We have a free mobile app, it’s called Visit Valley Forge, and you can check it out there. It’s turn by turn directions. There’s one through the park, but there’s also ones through different areas where you can see beautiful homes and gardens, take some challenging hills in Bridgeport. I personally [chuckle] don’t recommend that one, ’cause I can’t do the hills, but bring your bike with you…

0:07:52.6 AB: You and me both, Rachel.

[laughter]

0:07:54.7 RR: Bridgeport is awesome, you should definitely check it out, but I personally, I’m weak, I have no stamina, I can’t do the hills. But definitely…

0:08:02.1 AB: It feels like you can see some really beautiful sights, see some of the local spots, too, right? Yeah.

0:08:08.1 RR: Absolutely, and you can use the trails, a lot of it connects you to some low-stress, low-traffic streets, too. So this has been great this year, of course, to get folks out, get your mental health going, get your exercise going. So some great spots to see. And then hop off the trail, and we’ve got tons of restaurants, quaint little shops, you can find one-of-a-kind gifts in there for folks throughout the year. So definitely some really cool places to check out. And of course, we have breweries, wineries, and distilleries, too, along there.

0:08:37.4 AB: That’s right, yes, so many wonderful, fun things. And I was curious about the snow, because I’ve heard you can ski in your area, too, right? When the snow falls, you can ski. And sleigh rides, that’s what I was curious most about with Christmas coming.

0:08:54.7 RR: [chuckle] The sleigh rides are usually more dependent on actual snow, yes, that’s right. And a great time to do that, of course, is Christmas, but definitely throughout the winter, too. But at Spring Mountain, whether it snows or not, they do have some fake snow. You can ski, you can snowshoe, you can cross-country ski there, you can snow tube, so definitely a fun place for the folks and family and kids.

0:09:18.0 AB: So it sounds like you have worked on the more adventurous side of things. We should check out Spring Mountain, then.

0:09:23.6 RR: There is so much for… For folks who want some adventure, indoor or outdoor, there’s so much to do here in Montgomery County. We have something called iFLY, which is indoor skydiving right in King of Prussia. I personally have done it, it is amazing, it’s super fun…

0:09:39.2 AB: A thrill.

0:09:41.1 RR: You might think you would be scared or you wouldn’t be able to do it. I’m telling you, these instructors are awesome, they get you trained super quick, you go in… And kids of all ages are doing this, so young as like nine, and up through into your 70s you can do it, as long as you’re healthy and your ticker’s in good shape. They suit you up and it is an amazing, one-of-a-kind experience. I highly recommend it, super fun for families and groups who are coming to town.

0:10:05.5 AB: Lesson you won’t forget, that’s for sure, right?

0:10:08.8 RR: Definitely put it on your bucket list. Plus, it is so incredible to watch the trainers. They show off a little bit and do some tricks. Even just that is worth it to go. If you’re not gonna participate, go check those guys out, it’s very fun to watch.

0:10:21.5 AB: Yeah, that’s awesome. And speaking of things you won’t forget, I’ve been told that there is a shopping Mecca in King of Prussia. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that.

0:10:33.1 RR: [chuckle] Just a little iconic place called King of Prussia Mall, you may have heard of it. [chuckle] We like to boast here in Valley Forge and Montgomery County, PA that we have the best shopping in the country. And one of the reasons for that is that epic Mecca, King of Prussia Mall. So they are huge, they are mostly known, largely known for their luxury. Of course, you can find tons of other things there. Holidays are a great time to visit. Their decor is out of this world, talk about luxury. There are some really home goals there for holiday decor. But yeah, King of Prussia Mall, definitely a place I would highly recommend checking out. They’ve got more than 400 stores. Again, a big focus on luxury. They have a brand new wing, actually, it’s only a couple years old, focused on…

0:11:16.4 AB: So no shortage of options, then. 400 stores, my word.

0:11:21.4 RR: Yup, and…

0:11:22.1 AB: [0:11:22.1] ____ some square footage, then. [chuckle]

0:11:25.5 RR: Tons of square footage, it’s huge. It’s great for exercise, you really could just walk that mall…

0:11:30.3 AB: That’s true.

0:11:31.1 RR: And get some good exercise in, even if you’re just window shopping. But of course, we want you to spend some money here, too. And they have restaurants, too, so you really can make it an all-day, a weekend trip, just in the King of Prussia area. And there’s tons nearby, too. There’s King of Prussia Town Center, the park is close by, Valley Forge Casino Resort, and the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center isn’t too far away, too. They often have tons of events and shows that people can check out.

0:11:55.7 AB: Maybe we can take a second to talk about some of those things. The town center, I’ve heard, has some events, right? It’s a pretty nice place to visit.

0:12:04.1 RR: Yeah, the town center is one of those unique, those newer, modern residential combined with commercial spaces. So folks live there, there’s beautiful apartments there. And then you… It’s very walkable. So there’s restaurants, there’s shops, there’s tons to do right there. And they love to decorate for the holidays, too. And throughout the summer, they normally have different concerts and events, so definitely keep an eye out for what’s happening. Always something to do at the town center. And that goes the same for the Casino Resort and the Expo Center, too. There’s live music, there’s comedians at the Casino Resort. And of course, the hotel’s right there and the casino, and they have online sports betting now as well.

0:12:47.9 AB: That’s great.

0:12:48.2 RR: And like I said, the Expo Center, tons of different shows come through there, from crafts to comic book shows to live animal stuff to… It’s really fun, always something to do over there as well in Oaks.

0:13:00.4 AB: That’s so great. That’s awesome. So I’m glad you brought up the casino as well, ’cause so much to do during the daytime, but also at nighttime, too. You’ve got a lot of activities and things you can be doing. I’m talking all of these wonderful things that you’re listing off here, so many wonderful things to do, I’m honestly working up an appetite, though, Rachel. [chuckle] Maybe you can share with us some of the dining options, too, that we can expect to experience when we come to visit in the Valley Forge, Montgomery County area.

0:13:30.8 RR: Definitely, definitely. So we have 1,600 restaurants in Montgomery County.

0:13:35.6 AB: Wow.

0:13:35.6 RR: So options are not a problem here. [chuckle]

0:13:37.8 AB: Wow.

0:13:39.5 RR: And of course, as I… At the mall, there, they alone have have about 50 restaurants. King of Prussia Town Center has tons. You might have heard of a place called Founding Farmers, they’re actually based in DC so they have locations here. A lot of really well-known, high profile brands choose that King of Prussia area to have one of their partner restaurants set up. Definitely a great spot for restaurants like that. But there’s also some cozy cafes and different spots that you really won’t find anywhere else. We’ve got The Lucky Well in Ambler, and that’s actually run by a pretty famous chef, Chef Chad Rosenthal. He was on one of those famous chef cooking shows. He was one of the contestants. Awesome food there. And even out into Western Montgomery County, Pottstown, we’ve got some newer restaurants out there. All types of cuisine, Italian, French, Mediterranean, Indian, Chinese, anything you think of, we’ve got it right here for you. So bring your…

0:14:38.4 AB: My mouth is watering now, Rachel. I’m getting really excited.

0:14:42.9 RR: [chuckle] Yeah, and lots of options throughout the day. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, late nights, apps. We’ve got tapas, small plates, so definitely…

0:14:51.5 AB: And you started to mention earlier, too, about the breweries. I’d like to talk about that for a second.

0:14:56.8 RR: Yes, so a lot of places all across the country have ale trails or wine trails. And what we did in Montgomery County was we put together our Montco Makers. Because what really makes us unique, and of course, anywhere you go, are the people who are crafting those beverages for you. So we actually have more than 30 award-winning breweries, wineries and distilleries. Large portion of that’s mostly craft breweries. We do have several wineries and we even have a couple of distilleries here, one of which is in an old historic firehouse, so that one is Five Saints Distilling…

0:15:28.5 AB: Oh, cool.

0:15:28.7 RR: In Morristown.

0:15:30.0 AB: That is awesome.

0:15:31.5 RR: The other one is in Lansdale, Boardroom Spirits. They are really well-known for their cocktails. Boy, they come up with some super creative, delicious cocktails. I would definitely check that one out, too. But the cool thing is, our Montco Makers app. So you can download… Again, it’s free, Montco Makers app. And when you’re here, you can check in to those different places and then it earns you points and you can eventually get rewards like some swag from us, a hat, all the way up to a VIP tour of one of the places if you get to a certain level. So definitely download that app. It’ll help you navigate through.

0:16:06.6 AB: Yes, that sounds like a wealth of knowledge there for us to enjoy that. Yes, and you’re giving us some local taste, too. I’m so thankful for those recommendations. That really makes the trip. I would love to know, though, Rachel, I’m putting you on the spot, if you had to pick out at least one of your favorite places to eat, though, that is just a must on our bucket list, could you share with us one of those places?

0:16:32.4 RR: Boy, you are… You’re making this…

0:16:34.0 AB: I know it. I’m putting you on the spot.

[overlapping conversation]

0:16:34.3 AB: [0:16:34.3] ____ [chuckle] Well, I know I already mentioned Founding Farmers, but I do have to say that one is quite delectable. And I know I also mentioned Lucky Well, too. But boy, I’ve had their stuff at different events throughout the county, and so delicious. I highly recommend it. But you really can’t go wrong. There are too many favorites to choose just one, I really have to say.

0:16:58.5 AB: Absolutely. Maybe if we have a sweet tooth, that might be something a little out of character, too, something that we can go find to get a little something sweet?

0:17:06.9 RR: Well, can I tell you, Anna, about… We have got quite a few bakeries throughout. Now, there’s restaurants, of course, that serve desserts, too. Normandy Farm is a hotel and conference center and their restaurant is called Farmer’s Daughter. They are so well known for their desserts because these are some… It’s gonna be so beautiful you might not even wanna eat it, but you still will and it’s delicious. [chuckle]

[overlapping conversation]

0:17:30.7 AB: Snap a picture, right? We’ve gotta snap a picture.

0:17:32.1 RR: Yep. Very Insta-worthy. But we also have some bakeries, like College Field Bakery, Corropolese, they’re known for their tomato pies. And then Lochel’s Bakery is really well known. They’re located in Hatboro, PA. They whip up some of the best cookies and desserts. And just check it out. I’m getting hungry thinking about it. I can’t even think straight.

0:17:53.8 AB: I know it. I know it. I’m salivating. I’m getting too… [laughter] Alright, so Rachel, tell us a little bit more about family-friendly things that we can do, ’cause I’ve got two little ones and I’m really excited to bring them and to come and see you guys. So kinda share some of those family-friendly activities that we can do when we come.

0:18:11.5 RR: We’ve got you covered, Anna. I’ve got a couple little ones myself, 10-year-old and a four-year-old, and we just love a few places here in Montco. And those would be Legoland Discovery Center, that’s in Plymouth Meetings. It’s actually right in the mall, so awesome spot to take the kids. They’ve got a ride, they’ve got building blocks, they’ve got a laser thing that you go through, and really cool setups made by their master builders, so definitely check that out. The Elmwood Park Zoo is so adorable and quaint and they have so many different types of animals. I just love going there. And they have great events throughout the year, whether it’s Halloween, you can trick-or-treat. Or they actually, right now for the holidays, have their Wild Lights set up. It’s more than a million lights throughout the zoo. So you can go at night, see the animals and see all the lights. Super cool and fun for the holidays.

0:18:58.5 AB: That sounds magical.

0:19:00.1 RR: Plus it’s outside, so it’s perfect for right now, and definitely safe to do. Social distancing, wearing a mask, all of that good stuff. And then our John James Audubon Center. So actually, this is a brand new 18,000 square foot museum and art center located right in Oaks, PA. And for those who aren’t familiar, John James Audubon’s a very famous ornithologist who wrote Birds of America, and he’s actually credited with some of the first bird-banded testing right here in Oaks, PA. So definitely check that out. Beautiful artwork, you can learn so much about birds. There’s plenty of trials. There are about five miles of trails around that museum that you can check out, and super fun for the kids. There’s an outdoor fledgling trail area where the kids can play. It’s almost like a mini playground. You can check out the eggs, you can check out a bird’s nest, and there’s even a little mini ziplining that you can do. And the zoo has ziplining, too, just FYI. [chuckle]

0:19:51.7 AB: That’s so fun. So many wonderful things to do. And I’m thinking about my husband, too. You guys offer some golf, I hear?

0:20:00.8 RR: We have 50 top ranked historic golf courses here in Montco, PA. We’re actually one of the largest concentrations of golf courses in this area. So I would definitely check it out on our website. You can go to montcogov.com. And we do try to put together packages for folks who might be visiting to golf. So definitely recommend hitting up the greens and getting on the fairway there. Lots for your hubs to do.

[overlapping conversation]

0:20:23.5 AB: [0:20:23.5] ____ about that, for sure. [chuckle]

0:20:25.8 RR: Bring your clubs. You can rent some here, too.

0:20:29.0 AB: There you go. So Rachel, can you tell us some options when it comes to planning our stay. There’s a lot of options of where we can stay when we come to visit you, right?

0:20:38.8 RR: Absolutely. We have 80 hotels here in Montgomery County, and some of the greatest parts of those hotels are not only are they world class, lots of higher-end brands that you would recognize, Hilton, Marriott, etcetera, but we also… A lot of them have free parking, which is huge, not gonna get that in a lot of major cities [0:20:56.9] ____ you’re pretty close to. And we’re also so easily accessible with affordable rates. So definitely some great options for you to check out, and all across the county, pretty close to some of those areas in the Valley Forge Park, King of Prussia. So definitely some great options. And we also offer an experience, our hashtag MakeItMontco experience, you can get up to $300 worth of a digital coupon booklet through our app if you book that hotel package. So you book, you get an affordable night, you get free parking, and you get some deals for you and the family, whoever you’re bringing. So a great deal to come and see.

0:21:33.4 AB: Make a mental note about that, right? You gave us a good tip. [chuckle]

0:21:38.8 RR: Absolutely.

0:21:40.0 AB: So Rachel, you’ve mentioned a couple of times now about being pet-friendly, and I love that, ’cause we’ve got a dog and I’d love to bring her along, too. And so kind of tell us a little bit more. Are you famous for a particular dog show? Is that right?

0:21:54.8 RR: You may have heard of the National Dog Show which airs on NBC, actually, every Thanksgiving. I know for a lot of folks, including my family, it’s a big tradition for us to watch that, our dog, too. And so actually, we’ve realized that not only do we have that, all those dogs, those famous pups, are staying here in Montgomery County, PA. And we realize, there’s this trend of people who want to travel with their furry friend. They don’t wanna board them. They don’t want someone else to watch them. And you can do that here.

0:22:21.4 AB: Are fur babies, right? They’re our fur babies. [chuckle]

0:22:26.4 RR: We call it Embark Montco. So you can check out embarkmontco.com, little play on words there. Bring your furry friend. Not only are half of our hotels pet-friendly, but we also, again, have those trails. And some of our restaurants too, are very pet-friendly. More in the seasonal, warmer seasons, because a lot of that pet-friendly stuff happens outside. So just something to consider when you’re planning your trip, but definitely something to check out.

0:22:50.0 AB: That’s awesome. That is so neat. Thank you for sharing that. Good, and then… Okay, let’s ask about the arts and culture, okay?

0:22:58.4 RR: Yeah.

0:23:00.5 AB: Okay. So Rachel, can you tell us a little bit about, as a local, I’ve heard you’ve got some really great arts and culture in your area, and I’d love to dive into that for a minute if we can.

0:23:12.9 RR: Absolutely. I know I talked about the John James Audubon Center, which has some art to it, but we have actually 200 arts and culture venues here in Montgomery County, PA. Everything from local playhouses where you can catch different shows, comedy acts, musicals, plays, to art centers and galleries where you can see local artists on display. So I would definitely recommend folks checking out some of those studios and some of those theaters. You’re gonna get Broadway caliber acts right here in Valley Forge in Montgomery County.

0:23:44.5 AB: Wow, that’s wonderful. Okay, make another mental note, right? [chuckle]

0:23:47.4 RR: Your list just keeps getting longer. You gotta stay for a week, I think.

0:23:51.3 AB: That’s right. We gotta plan a week. [chuckle] Well, Rachel, I appreciate so much of what you’ve shared with us today. I do wanna ask you, though, where is the best place for our visitors to go and really kind of prepare for their trip to come and visit you in the Valley Forge, Montgomery County area in Pennsylvania, to really map out their trip?

0:24:11.6 RR: Yeah, check out ValleyForge.org. We also have live chat while you’re navigating our site. So hit us up. We’ll be happy to answer your questions. And then even when you come on site, if you’re gonna hit the park first, that’s a great place to stop, because our welcome center is located in the park. So we can get you set up for some recommendations throughout the rest of the county as well.

0:24:31.0 AB: Perfect, that’s so helpful. And you mentioned a couple of apps that we definitely need to download, say those again.

0:24:36.8 RR: That is our free Visit Valley Forge app. So that will, again, showcase the entire destination. And then the Montco Makers app if you’re really into the breweries, the wineries, the distilleries, check that one out, too.

0:24:47.5 AB: That’s awesome. Rachel, we appreciate your time and insights so much today. You’ve been a wonderful tour guide and gotten us all excited to come and visit you as soon as we can. So Rachel, we really do appreciate it.

0:25:00.0 RR: No, thanks for having me. Happy to tell you about it. Can’t wait to see you come visit.

0:25:03.5 AB: That’s right. That’s right. We gotta pack up and head on now.

0:25:07.3 RR: Road trip! [chuckle]

0:25:09.5 AB: That’s right. Alright, thank you. So alright guys, we hope you really enjoyed this episode of Main and Mulberry. Until next time, I’m Anna Bell.

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